TOPIC 1: Arguing for and Against a Proposition

Activity 1: The Affirmative - YES!

  • Suggested Guidelines: 1) Share debate ballots and outline of debate concepts with students. Emphasize those terms associated with the affirmative support of a proposition, for example burden of proof and warrant. 2) View debate clips. Ask students to identify the proposition (which may be implied) and those candidates who are arguing in support of it. Do the candidates offer proof of their claims? What types of evidence do they offer? What assumptions are they relying on? 3) Help students understand the difference between competitive debate and presidential debates. 4) Ask students to construct their own arguments in support of the propositions identified in the debate clips.
  • Questions: How would you define the word proof? Are some types of proof stronger than others? How? In what ways can you offer proof in an argument?

Activity 2: The Negative - NO!

  • Suggested Guidelines: 1) Share debate ballots and outline of debate concepts with students. Emphasize those terms associated with the negative critique of a proposition, for example presumption and refutation. 2) View debate clips. Ask students to identify the proposition (which may be implied) and those candidates who are arguing against it. On what presumptions do the candidates base their negative positions? What types of refutation do they offer? What assumptions are they relying on? 3) Help students understand the difference between competitive debate and presidential debates. 4) Ask students to construct their own arguments against the propositions identified in the debate clips.
  • Questions: What is a presumption? What are the characteristics of a weak argument?

 

TOPIC 2: Ethics and Evidence

Activity 1: Looking for Accuracy & Reliability

  • Suggested Guidelines: 1) Brainstorm/discuss with students the issue of bias, preparedness, and ethics in the area of political debate. What kind of behavior would they consider ethical (honesty? sincerity?)? What kind of behavior would they consider unethical (dishonesty? Insincerity?)? 2) View debates with students. Ask them to analyze and discuss the claims made by the candidates and the evidence they use to back up those claims. Ask them to read newspaper articles from 1980-83 and 1984. Discuss with students the ethical implications surrounding the 1980 debate controversy. Discuss with students the ethical implications surrounding the issue of debate sponsorship. What are their views? 3) Discuss with students the formats, procedures, and criteria for establishing sound practices in their own research. Have them put these procedures into practice by preparing for a debate on an issue of importance to them.
  • Questions: How do you know when a piece of evidence or information is accurate? How do you know when it is reliable? What might the consequences be of using false or misleading information to make a point or win an argument? Does it matter? Why?

 

Topic 3: Debating

Activity 1: Judging a debate

  • Activity Guidelines: 1) Share debate ballots and outline of debate concepts with students. Discuss the meaning of terms and concepts. 2) Watch interviews. Discuss with students why debate is one important way to communicate ideas. Focus their thinking on the need for reasoned arguments, carefully research and preparation, and thoughtful presentation. 3) Watch debate clips. Ask students to judge debates using debate ballots. If need be, students can develop their own debate ballots to reflect those things they think are important to making a good argument.
  • Questions: According to debate experts, why is debating an important skill? What are the elements of debate? What specific skills do the judges of debate look for?